Yesterday afternoon, a priest asked an interesting question on social media: for the Sunday evening Mass, should he add Kobe Bryant’s name to the deceased in the Prayers of the Faithful?
Various people weighed in with different opinions — and something like that is clearly a prudential judgment call. You can make good arguments on both sides.
I noticed that the parish I was visiting in Florida did add his name in the intentions during the 5 p.m. Sunday Mass.
I recall that at my home parish in Queens, we’ve done that for prominent public figures who were Catholic; Tim Russert was mentioned, and so was Geraldine Ferraro (who at one time was a parishioner).
But what about a figure from the sports or entertainment world?
Late last night, CNN’s Brian Stelter wrote: “Kobe Bryant’s death has shaken the entire country. It is hard to think of a more shocking death in the sports world, going back many many years.” It had wider significance, and truly left many people who didn’t even know him shocked and saddened.
And: he was a practicing Catholic, who gave tremendous credit to his faith. One report yesterday even noted that he attended Mass the morning he died.
I would argue in favor of adding Bryant’s name to the Prayers of the Faithful for several reasons:
- It addresses a concern — and perhaps even a deep grief — that is on the mind of many in the pews.
- It makes notice of a prominent, world-famous Catholic who was unabashed in professing his faith and practicing it.
- It fulfills our call to remember and pray for the dead — and can serve as a powerful reminder of the limitations of this life and the end that awaits us all.
I think a preacher might even have found a way to make mention of Kobe Bryant’s life and faith in yesterday’s homily; Bryant was someone who, like the first apostles, answered Christ’s call and sought to live it, even in the midst of his celebrity. He was also, a man like all of us, who was flawed and struggled to be better.
In an interview following his arrest on a charge of rape, he noted the impact his Catholic upbringing had:
Bryant said it was a priest who helped him to make some important personal realizations during the ordeal.
Describing his fear of being sent to prison for a crime he believed he had not committed, Bryant told GQ that “The one thing that really helped me during that process—I’m Catholic, I grew up Catholic, my kids are Catholic—was talking to a priest.”
“It was actually kind of funny: He looks at me and says, ’Did you do it?’ And I say, ’Of course not.’ Then he asks, ’Do you have a good lawyer?’ And I’m like, ’Uh, yeah, he’s phenomenal.’ So then he just said, ’Let it go. Move on. God’s not going to give you anything you can’t handle, and it’s in his hands now. This is something you can’t control. So let it go.’ And that was the turning point,” Bryant said.
Bryant and his wife have been reported to be regular parishioners at an Orange County, California parish.
Singer Cristina Ballestero posted on Instagram Jan. 26 a story of her encounter with Bryant at Holy Family Cathedral in Orange, California at a weekday Mass.
“As we went up to communion, [Bryant] waited for me to go. If you grew up in the Catholic Church, you understand this is a respectful thing men do in church as a sign of respect to women. He said I have a beautiful voice.”
“His most inspiring trait was his decision to turn to his faith in God and receive God’s mercy and to be a better man after a regretful decision,”
Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him…